‘American Hardcore’: Firm in Its Message
American hardcore first sprouted teeth in the coastal towns of Southern California. The music reacted and built upon Punk and focused on anger and incredibly quick playing.
The scene in the early 1980s was a result of all the pent-up anger, all the societal pressure that turned ugly, raging prepubescent coals into the tattooed and pierced diamonds of hardcore.
‘American Hardcore’ is a documentary that showcases this phenomenon.
‘I hate my boss, I hate the people that I work with, I hate my parents, I hate all these authoritative figures, I hate politicians, I hate people in government, I hate the police. And now I have a chance to be with a bunch of my own type of people, and I have a chance to go off and that’s basically what it was,’ said Keith Morris, original vocalist for Black Flag and Circle Jerks.
The film exhibits 60 bands, including Black Flag, The Germs and the Bad Brains, and their rise in the hardcore punk scene across the United States.
The ethics and dogma of hardcore spread from Southern California aggressively throughout the nation, with punk acts in Washington D.C., New York, Boston and everywhere in between.
Kids were fed up with everything from their families to politics, and it was time for a release.
Paying close attention to the pioneers of the era, ‘American Hardcore’ focuses heavily on the influence of the overall mantra of the punk rock era, the ‘D.I.Y. [Do It Yourself]’ aesthetic as the essential driving force of hardcore punk.
The kids created their own record companies. Black Flag’s Greg Ginn, for example, released most of his band’s recordings through his independent label, SST Records. They also organized their own shows and headed their own groups of print media with countless fanzines circulating the underground scene.
With ‘Don’t hate the media, become the media’ as a motto of the punk movement, the saying bled into the American hardcore scene as well.
‘American Hardcore’ also explores the rise of Straight Edge, a movement in which young people commit themselves to abstinence from alcohol, sex or drugs. First popularized and noted by a song by Minor Threat, ‘Straight Edge’ was a sort of punk rock elegy to a band member’s friend who had recently overdosed. Followers drew black X’s on their hands with markers.
Following the explosion of bands (who would later influence double-album releasing, stadium-filling mega-bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Beastie Boys) onto the punk scene, the era of hardcore proved to have spawned groups worthy of carrying their torch. The members of the latter trio were huge fans of the Bad Brains, especially when the Beastie Boys were known as the Young Aborigines.
The film ‘American Hardcore’ is based on the book by Steven Blush, ‘American Hardcore: A Tribal History.’ His book, much like the film, is a collection of interviews all spliced together, categorized by themes to illustrate particular points, showcasing the environment and people that defined a culture that went hand-in-hand with the music.
‘Hardcore extended, mimicked or reacted to Punk,’ Blush writes in his book. ‘It appropriated some aspects yet discarded others. It reaffirmed the attitude and rejected New Wave. That’s why it was hardcore Punk